Philadelphia’s bike-share program sees fewer commuters but more recreational riders

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Despite the coronavirus pandemic, ridership for Indego, Philadelphia’s bike-share program, has actually remained the same, averaging about 750,000 trips in 2019 and 2020.

Aaron Ritz, transportation programs manager for the city Office of Transportation, Infrastructure, and Sustainability (oTIS), said bike-share trips were traditionally used by commuters. But due to the pandemic, bikers started riding for another purpose.

“In any year prior to 2020, eight out of 10 of those trips would have been somebody going to work, coming from a neighborhood to an office destination, and then going back again at the end of the day,” he said. “So that was a vast bulk of our trips, and people were using it as a commuter shuttle.”

As the pandemic rolled on, more people were working from home, and bike use shifted dramatically away from commuting.

“What really rose further and further to the top is that need for something that is recreational,  that is healthy, that allows you to disconnect from the life — ya know, this,” he gestured at his computer screen.

Another shift: more riders in the colder months.

“The people who started using Indego last year, more of them stuck around during the wintertime than has really ever happened before,” he said.

Kristin Gavin-Wisniewski, Indego general manager, also credited low-income employees for the shift in bike usage. Many of them couldn’t work from home, and when buses and subways stopped running, they looked for another option — and found it.

“Indego served as a key resource for low-income Philadelphians,” she added. “We offer an Access Pass, so anyone who has a SNAP benefits card, an ACCESS card, can sign up for a monthly pass for $5 a month.”

Gavin-Wisniewski said the response has been overwhelming.

“Right now, we have 100% more Access Pass holders than we did at this time last year,” she said.

Now, more bikes and stations are on the way.

“Plans are to grow with an electric fleet so that upward of 30% of the fleet would be electric by the end of the expansion this year,” she said.